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The heavy burden of poor health

Non-communicable diseases, obesity and the covid-19 impetus for building better health systems

Audio: Listen to the introduction


The hidden health crisis we all can see

Covid-19 has exposed the impact of social inequalities on declining health in populations around the world. It is these deep inequalities that have contributed to rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially among the most deprived populations, making them more vulnerable to the pandemic.

Each year, NCDs cut short the lives of 15 million people in the prime of life. As a result, the steady rise in life expectancy is slowing, or even reversing in some countries. This is unacceptable, especially when prevention of vast numbers of NCD deaths is well within reach. Investment in good health would not only save lives but reduce a multi-billion-dollar burden on the global economy.

NCDs are misunderstood, under-prioritised and underestimated and consequently under-prevented, under-diagnosed and under-treated. The lack of attention to the NCD health crisis is not for lack of ideas of what to do about it. The World Health Organization has plenty of “best buy” strategies for prevention and better care. Implementation, however, is fraught with complexity and conflicting political priorities. A genuine revolution in health care is needed to flatten the NCD growth curve.

Although NCDs cause far more premature deaths than infectious disease and hurt economic productivity, they receive only a fraction of the global health funding in comparison. Despite the topic having moved up the global health agenda over the past decade, there has been little sustained effort to develop the comprehensive policies necessary to combat the manifold causes of NCDs. The structure of health systems today is no longer fit for purpose. The covid-19 pandemic has taught us that governments are capable of supporting radical change, given reason enough to do so.

We have launched FORESIGHT Global Health to contribute to knowledge-sharing and solution building across sectors; our ambition is to be the essential read on building better health systems to reduce the incidence of NCDs worldwide. The magazine, with its focus on the intersection between in-depth health insights and socioeconomic research, is intended as the journalistic platform for thought leadership and dialogue on NCDs.

Our launch issue includes a special report on obesity. It also explores a number of solutions for reducing and managing NCDs, from technology to sociology to urban planning, enabling us to not only understand the climate in which NCDs flourish, but to imagine how those conditions can be changed to create a healthier world. Amid the continuing scourge of the coronavirus pandemic, there is new impetus for change. We believe journalism that is ambitious and advocates systemic reform can accelerate the building of better health systems.

See the full magazine below


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